MONDO EXTRAS

When Billie Beat Bobby

by Heathen April 25, 2001
When Billie Beat Bobby

New York City. Giggling, the Kings trot over to a press conference with Bobby. He hops the net energetically and mugs for the crowd while Billie Jean smiles patiently. Bobby steers her to the press table, mouthing off about how life begins at 55. "All the women want me. They either want me dead or in bed," he grins. Well, he got the "dead" part correct. "Ladies first," he says, offering Billie Jean a seat. "After you, muscles," she jokes. "I'm just trying to be a gentleman," he says, to which she fires back through clenched teeth, "That'd be a first." More tense banter ensues, and Bobby leans over to tell Billie Jean that she's "doing great," as though she's had to finely craft a façade of confidence that hides her quaking innards. Billie insists she's having fun with it, and poses for the camera; while he's flexing, she grips his bicep. A mighty step forward for women's lib, that.

Bounding up the escalator in another airport, Billie Jean kisses Larry goodbye and boards the plane. Someone stops her and says, "You're an inspiration. If you beat Bobby Riggs, I'm asking my boss for a raise." Billie smiles serenely. "Ask for it anyway," she whispers.

Bobby, meanwhile, alights from Perenchio's personal plane and steps toward a van. Perenchio throws open the doors to reveal a fully loaded Shaggin' Wagon, complete with blonde bimbos that are too slutty to care that they're about to get beaten with the ugly stick -- a very private, unpleasant, trouser-dwelling ugly stick. "You girls…play a lot of tennis?" Bobby says, swooning. They smile vapidly. "Tennis is when I play with balls!" one of them thinks.

In a hotel room -- huh? -- Billie Jean is talking to Gladys Heldman, the head of the Virginia Slims Tour, which is the ladies' tennis circuit. They're arguing because Billie Jean wants to miss matches in order to practice for and promote the Battle of the Sexes. Gladys thinks it's the wrong time to make a political statement. America isn't ready. "This is much bigger than you think," Billie Jean argues. Meanwhile, Bobby is escorted to the Astrodome, where he's shown the 53,000 seats available to seat the gawking spectators. Bobby wonders if they can fill it. Back to Gladys. "Are you going to beat this bastard?" she asks with a smile. Billie pauses, and they look at each other. Right before they kiss, we cut away.

In Denver, Billie Jean is racing around, preparing for a satellite debate with Bobby to promote the match. She scampers over to a golf cart, escorted by a male production assistant, and she starts to change right in front of him. He's clearly embarrassed, stammering something about how his wife is a huge fan. Those women's libbers -- always showing off their breasts.

Bobby, in NYC, is prepping and primping. "The more insults, the better," he's told. He panics briefly about whether his roots are showing, and then coughs up a lie so huge that it could wear the Grand Canyon as a beret: "I don't like to hurt people's feelings. I don't want to insult." Billie Jean is at a disadvantage -- she can be seen, but she has no monitor, and can't see Bobby. A television is wheeled over to Riggs, and he stares at her image with a fascination that almost borders on affection. "How's it going, kiddo? You look tired," he says softly. "I just played nine sets," she replies, briskly. "Playing lately?" Bobby laughs and enthuses, "Yesterday, I played a guy with an elephant tied to my leg -- [he won] because the elephant started dumping on the court, and the guy got so distracted, he couldn't watch his own toss." Wow. The Fable That Aesop Forgot. Billie Jean laughs, then stares right in the lens after receiving relevant instructions on where to look while talking on-air. Bobby is silent. She calls out to him. "Just wondering," he says, searching her televised face earnestly, "what it would be like to be married to you." Billie Jean replies, "If I lose, is that part of the deal?" No. If you kill forty-five people during a drug-induced bender, give your best friend an Uzi enema and steal a Mars bar without grabbing one for me, then you might be forced to marry Bobby. Only in states that don't allow the death penalty, though. Bobby says he's done with that marriage nonsense. He waxes poetic about his lovely wife, who was understanding and kind, but who sent him to a therapist because he spent too much time playing golf and seeking action. Sounds fair. He makes a lame joke about spending a year playing gin rummy with his therapist, winning back twice the fee. She giggles, and he stares at her again. It's unsettling.

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When Billie Beat Bobby

by Heathen April 25, 2001
When Billie Beat Bobby The subtitle reads, "King vs. Status Quo, Part II." Billie Jean has gathered the women's tennis players into a room and is arguing for a new association -- the Women's Tennis Association, it'll be called -- that will lobby for pay equity in the sport. "We'll be seeing women players making a million a year," Billie Jean insists, wildly. She tosses Chrissie Evert a clipboard and says no one can leave until they've passed this initiative. A rich, throaty Ovary Of Gender Equality warbles in the background as the clipboard makes the rounds. Conked out on the bed, clutching the Petition For Equal Pay clipboard, Billie is lying on her back with her uncovered legs propped against the wall. I lean closer, wondering how Holly Hunter got her legs to look like that, when her quadriceps throbs and whacks me in the eye. Billie is suddenly jolted awake by the telephone. She answers groggily, and it's her husband. "Bobby's people…want to close the deal on the match," he whispers. She's tired. "I want someone else to do this for a while," she moans. Oh, whatever, Atlas. You're not carrying anything you didn't deliberately pick up. Billie Jean tells him to close the deal before she backs out of it. She then relays that her petition succeeded. "These women, they think I'm a bully," she complains. "Well, you are, honey," Larry says lovingly. "I'm not. I'm a forward mama," Billie drools sleepily. He gently talks her through kicking off her shoes and putting her glasses on the hotel table, then tells her to sleep -- the Wimbledon finals are in three hours. Suddenly, a hand grabs her clipboard. It's Bobby, and he's breathing on her neck. She screams, as any right-minded person would when faced with something as hideous and spit-prone as Riggs. They grapple tensely and…oh, it was a dream. Billie Jean is letting Bobby seep into her consciousness. I think Eckerd makes a salve for that. "King vs. Perenchio," the graphic reads. We see Larry and Jerry, the promoter, hashing out details of the Battle of the Sexes tennis match. Billie Jean's Wimbledon final screens nearby on a small color television set. Larry doesn't understand why Billie Jean is billed as the challenger, given that she's tops in the tennis field. "He's the champion of women," Perenchio says, shrugging. Suddenly, it's game-set-match Billie Jean, and she takes the Wimbledon title. Larry is totally thrilled. "My wife just won Wimbledon," he repeats to himself, turning in awe to anyone who will listen and confirm that it's really true. Which is odd, considering that it's the sixth Wimbledon title of her career, and the second in a row.

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